Confirmed: Springboks versus Lions series will stay in Cape Town
It has taken nearly a fortnight to finally be confirmed but the three-match Lions Test series versus the Springboks will remain in Cape Town and won’t be heading to Johannesburg as originally planned for games two and three. It was last Friday week, July 9, when Lions boss Warren Gatland reckoned his team wouldn’t be budging from Cape Town once they flew there on July 11.
The Gauteng region has been one of the areas most affected by the ongoing pandemic and with both the Lions and the Springboks have had their respective bubbles breached there, it has now been officially decided to play the Test series to a conclusion in Cape Town following Saturday’s opener and stage the July 31 and August 7 Tests there as well.
It means that all three Test matches will be played at sea level, something that should favour the Lions whose players had spoken about the difficulties involved in playing at altitude in Jo’burg and Pretoria earlier in the tour. A joint media release read: “SA Rugby and the British and Irish Lions confirmed on Tuesday that agreement had been reached to conclude the Castle Lager Lions Series in Cape Town. The series was scheduled to return to Gauteng following the first Test in Cape Town on Saturday.
“However, the decision to remain in Cape Town was made following extensive consultation with medical experts on the risks associated with the delta variant of Covid-19. All three Test matches will now take place at the Cape Town Stadium on successive Saturdays – July 24 and 31, and August 7.”
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux added: “The data pointed in only one direction. The series has already been significantly disrupted by Covid-19 and a return to Gauteng at this time would only increase the risks. We now have two teams in bio-secure environments without any positive cases or anyone in isolation. To now return to the high veld would expose the series to renewed risk.
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“Everyone wants to see the two squads at their strongest, playing out an unforgettable series over the next three weekends and this decision gives us the best opportunity to see that happen.” Lions managing director Ben Calveley added: “We are fully supportive of this decision which we believe to be in the best interest of the Test series.” Roux thanked Gauteng and the city of Cape Town for their flexibility and understanding to accommodate the late change of plan.
“We have had great support from the local government and I’d like to thank both Gauteng and the city of Cape Town for their open-minded engagement in what has been a very challenging time,” said Roux. “Extraordinary times have called for extraordinary measures and we have had support from all our commercial partners despite the challenges.”
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